How should courts interpret the law? Strictly according to the text? By lawmakers’ original intent? By the needs of today’s society? Philosophical ideals? In this talk and Q&A, Tara Smith, professor of philosophy and BB&T Chair for the Study of Objectivism at the University of Texas – Austin, argues that the best laws in the world are useless if misunderstood – yet today, the debate over proper interpretation is a minefield of loaded concepts and false alternatives.
Smith’s new book, Judicial Review in an Objective Legal System, explains the pillars of proper review by grounding it in the function of an objective legal system. As the Rule of Law teeters, as presidential candidates stake radical claims about judges and the Constitution, and as issues ranging from abortion rights to medical care to war powers come before the courts, the question couldn’t be more timely.
Daniel Hannan’s book, The New Road to Serftdom: A Letter of Warning to America, urges Americans not to take such things as federalism, the rule of law and limited government for granted. He believes the United States could find itself lurching toward European-style socialism even more quickly. We have points we disagree with but his knowledge, eloquence and passion for freedom is something missing in the bulk of today’s politicians.
“The best evidence of this [Progressive] power to date has been the policies of Obama, the first New Left president….
“Besides working energetically to expand the reach of political correctness and environmentalism—and besides his unprecedentedly militant replay of the standard attacks on business, banks and Wall Street—Obama has endorsed some new measures and defended them on new grounds. Obamacare, for example, was defended not as compassion for those in medical need, but because equality of healthcare is a value in itself, quite apart from any special needs of the poor. The attorney general, Eric Holder, wanted American civilians and captured terrorists to be tried in the same courts, not because he sympathised with terrorism, but because all men, Americans and jihadists alike, being equal, have equal rights. Mr. Holder in this instance was applying to a legal situation the president’s own approach to foreign policy in general, exemplified by his regular apologies to other countries for America’s long and harmful delusion of “exceptionalism”—a delusion because all countries equal, and should have been so treated by the United States.
“To my mind, the most eloquent indication of Obama’s mindset is his demand for confiscatory taxation of what he calls “millionaires and billionaires,” not because these individuals are misusing their wealth or obtained it immorally, but simply because they have it, an unacceptable condition, since inequality of income, no matter its source, is unfair. It was once the American dream to climb “from rags to riches,” to make it big, to be able to crow proudly about becoming a millionaire. Now the administration tells us that it is unfair to achieve the dream because some people haven’t, and that the successes must be shot down until everyone’s rags match….” [The DIM Hypothesis 295-296]
[Institute for Justice] Arlington, Va.—This week a federal court handed down a long-awaited decision vindicating Lyndon McLellan in his fight against the IRS.
Lyndon’s case came to the nation’s attention after the IRS seized his entire bank account in July 2014 using civil forfeiture for the innocent act of depositing his hard-earned money in the bank in amounts under $10,000. The Institute for Justice took Lyndon’s case to clear his name and get back his property, and in June 2015, the government finally returned Lyndon’s money.
In returning Lyndon’s money, however, the government sought to avoid its obligation under federal law to pay Lyndon’s attorneys’ fees, costs, and interest. Lyndon racked up nearly $20,000 in fees owed to his accountant and lawyer before the Institute for Justice took his case on a pro bono basis.
The district court’s decision rejected the government’s maneuver, stating:
Certainly, the damage inflicted upon an innocent person or business is immense when, although it has done nothing wrong, its money and property are seized. Congress, acknowledging the harsh realities of civil forfeiture practice, sought to lessen the blow to innocent citizens who have had their property stripped from them by the Government. . . . This court will not discard lightly the right of a citizen to seek the relief Congress has afforded.
“Today’s decision recognizes that Lyndon should not have to pay for the government’s outrageous use of civil forfeiture laws against a totally innocent property owner,” said IJ Attorney Robert Everett Johnson. “The government took Lyndon’s property even though he did nothing wrong, forcing him into a prolonged and expensive legal nightmare. Now the government will have to comply with its obligation to make Lyndon at least partly whole.”
The decision comes just as the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit prepares to consider the government’s similar attempt to avoid paying fees, costs, and interest to Carole Hinders—an Iowa restaurant owner who also had her entire bank account seized and then returned. The Eighth Circuit will hold oral argument in that case on February 9 in St. Paul, MN.
“The government cannot turn a citizen’s life upside down and then walk away as if nothing happened,” said IJ Attorney Wesley Hottot, who will argue the case for Carole Hinders. “Now that Lyndon has been vindicated, we look forward to holding the government to account in Carole’s case as well.”
Jonathan Hoenig over at Capitalistpig reminds us of philosopher Ayn Rand’s advice on “How to Pick a President?”:
“In view of the general confusion on this subject, it is advisable to remind prospective voters of a few basic considerations, as guidelines in deciding what one can properly expect of a political candidate, particularly of a presidential candidate.
One cannot expect, nor is it necessary, to agree with a candidate’s total philosophy — only with his political philosophy (and only in terms of essentials). It is not a Philosopher-King that we are electing, but an executive for a specific, delimited job. It is only political consistency that we can demand of him; if he advocates the right political principles for the wrong metaphysical reasons, the contradiction is his problem, not ours.
A contradiction of that kind, will, of course, hamper the effectiveness of his campaign, weaken his arguments and dilute his appeal — as any contradictions undercut any man’s efficacy. But we have to judge him as we judge any work, theory, or product of mixed premises: by his dominant trend.
A vote for any candidate does not constitute an endorsement of his entire position, not even of his entire political position, only of his basic political principles.
It is the basic — and, today, the only — issue by which a candidate must be judged: freedom vs. statism.
If a candidate evades, equivocates and hides his stand under a junk-heap of random concretes, we must add up those concretes and judge him accordingly. If his stand is mixed, we must evaluate it by asking: Will he protect freedom or destroy the last of it? Will he accelerate, delay, or stop the march towards statism?”
As the diversity debate embroiling the Academy Awards continues, Michael Caine is the latest star to speak out – and he’s not holding back. For the second year in a row, no actors of color received Oscar nominations, a reality that has prompted some stars to boycott the show and examine the deeper issues surrounding race and the entertainment industry.
When asked to address the controversy during a BBC Radio 4 interview this week, Caine said, per The Hollywood Reporter: “There’s loads of black actors. You can’t vote for an actor because he’s black. You got to give a good performance, and I’m sure there were very good [performances].”
Caine’s comments come around the same time current Best Actress Oscar nominee Charlotte Rampling raised eyebrows for telling French Radio network Europe 1 on Friday morning that the Oscars are “racist to whites” and speaking out against the possibility of a quota system to ensure [racial] diversity. Her comments stand in contrast to other actors who have spoken out, including fellow nominee Mark Ruffalo, past winner George Clooney and Jada Pinkett Smith.
Grammys host LL Cool J has also added his voice to the debate. Speaking to the Associated Press Thursday after receiving his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, he said his advice to fellow African America actors is, “Don’t get bitter, get better.” “Is there room for improvement? Yes,” he said. “But let’s just put the work in. And ultimately, if the work is good enough, and it’s great enough and there’s enough of it, the door gets kicked in.”
On the issue of race quotas the philosopher Ayn Rand had this to say almost a half century ago:
Instead of fighting against racial discrimination, they are demanding that racial discrimination be legalized and enforced. Instead of fighting against racism, they are demanding the establishment of racial quotas. Instead of fighting for “color-blindness” in social and economic issues, they are proclaiming that “color-blindness” is evil and that “color” should be made a primary consideration. Instead of fighting for equal rights, they are demanding special race privileges.
They are demanding that racial quotas be established in regard to employment and that jobs be distributed on a racial basis, in proportion to the percentage of a given race among the local population. For instance, since Negroes constitute 25 percent of the population of New York City, they demand 25 percent of the jobs in a given establishment.
Racial quotas have been one of the worst evils of racist regimes. There were racial quotas in the universities of Czarist Russia, in the population of Russia’s major cities, etc. One of the accusations against the racists in this country is that some schools practice a secret system of racial quotas. It was regarded as a victory for justice when employment questionnaires ceased to inquire about an applicant’s race or religion.
Today, it is not an oppressor, but an oppressed minority group that is demanding the establishment of racial quotas. (!)
The call for “diversity” — racial quotas — in awards based on the color of ones’ skin is racist. The only thing that should matter is the performance. Imagine if such a standard were applied to the NBA? Would that be justice?
It is a generally accepted truth these days that good corporate culture is good business. Almost without exception, great companies point to their organizational values as a key reason for their success. But why? In what way do strong guiding values enable a business to achieve its goals?
Ray Girn, CEO of LePort Schools, shares a few stories about how his company’s core values have impacted the growth of his business, and through them explore key reasons for the immense practical power of moral values in business.
Recorded at the STRIVE Clubs 2015 Fall Student Conference on “The Morality of Value Creation & Trade.”
Oscar Isaac — who starred in the seventh Star Wars film, Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015), as X-wing pilot Poe Dameron is a fan of Ayn Rand’s epic, best-selling novel, Atlas Shrugged (or at least the t-shirt!). STAR WARS and Atlas Shrugged have two important similarities — they are epic morality stories where good and evil are clearly defined.
The Star Wars hero joins Vince Vaughn (“The last book I read was the book I’ve been rereading most of my life— The Fountainhead.”), Rob Lowe (“Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand is a stupendous achievement and I just adore it.”), Brad Pitt & Angelina Jolie (“I just think [Rand] has a very interesting philosophy…You reevaluate your own life and what’s important to you.”, Michael Caine (“The book I return to is Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead. My first daughter was named after its heroine, Dominique Francon.”), Eva Mendes (“Any potential boyfriend “has to be an Ayn Rand fan.”), Tom Selleck, Steven Spielberg and other Hollywood actors as a fan of great books.
They are not by any means Objectivists — individuals who explicitly understand and choose to live by Ayn Rand’s philosophy of reason, purpose and self-esteem — but they are fans of great literature and some aspects of her philosophy.
Diversity is important for movies. The whole world watches Hollywood movies, and our films should include a great variety of talented actors, regardless of race or gender. Traditionally, American television and movies have been less than stellar at casting people of color or women for parts that could be portrayed by any ethnicity or gender. The raunchy comedy South Park, even shamelessly goes after this trend in television and movies by having one African American character who is named “Token”.
If a new movie is released and it isn’t based on older movies, or history, then Hollywood should strive to bring more diversity to their cast. For example, take a science fiction movie like Edge of Tomorrow. The film takes place in the future and involves battles between humans and aliens. Hollywood can and should cast a diverse team for these original movies, as it’s new territory not built on past franchises.
The real diversity that matters — whether in schools, work, sports, or movies — is intellectual (performance), not racial.
ARI is happy to announce the launch of a new version of Ayn Rand Institute Campus, ARI’s online education website includes several exciting new features, including almost sixty complete essays by Ayn Rand and Leonard Peikoff, and more than 140 hours of audio-visual content across sixteen courses, including updated videos and new quiz content.
In addition to the video lectures that form the backbone of our lessons and courses, ARI Campus offers a wealth of articles, written by Ayn Rand and other scholars, that you can read online. Another great resource is The Ayn Rand Lexicon, which features extensive quotations from Rand’s writings, organized by topic. And be sure to visit our philosophical blog, where the discussion continues.